FULLERTON, Calif. – The Los Angeles Blues put in a an impressive effort over ninety minutes Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Galaxy but found themselves unable to hold on to the lead following Cesar Rivera’s go-ahead goal in the 62nd minute. Omar Gonzalez equalized for the MLS side in the 75th minute before setting up Mike Magee’s winning tally six minutes later, as the Galaxy advanced to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup with a hard- fought, yet well deserved 2-1 win.
The fans at Fullerton’s Titan Stadium saw an even affair in the opening half, the Blues holding their own defensively and not allowing any dangerous opportunities until Galaxy striker Chad Barrett headed just high on a Paolo Cardozo corner kick in the 14th minute. While the two teams cancelled each other out for almost the entire remainder of the first period, the Galaxy should have taken the lead four minutes from halftime.
Paolo Cardozo hit a nice in-swinger on a free-kick from the left that was met by the head of Jovan Kirovski about six yards from goal, and the 35-year-old’s close-range effort forced Blues goalkeeper Oscar Dautt to an outstanding reaction save. Galaxy captain Gregg Berhalter nearly scored on the rebound, but his tap-in attempt was narrowly scraped off the line by defender Nelson Akwari.
The Blues could have punished their opponents for the missed opportunity moments later, former Galaxy man Israel Sesay being released in the area by Mehrshad Momeni and hitting a low drive from close range that was stopped by goalkeeper Brian Perk. Sesay was involved in the action again ten minutes into the second half, as he cut the ball back to his right foot at the top of the box and released a low drive towards the near post that forced a diving save from Perk.
The Galaxy nearly took the lead on the other end just before the hour mark, Berhalter somehow emerging with an open shot from a scramble in the penalty area that was bravely blocked by Leonard Griffin. The save set up the game’s opening goal, as the Blues got on the board in the 62nd minute of play. Former Chivas USA man Carlos Borja found Chukwudi Chijindu on the left flank and the striker gave it right back to his teammate, who had continued his run to the edge of the penalty area. Borja’s mishit shot trickled all the way through to an unmarked Cesar Rivera, who had an easy tap-in from less than five yards out.
The Galaxy came close to equalizing in the 66th minute, Miguel Lopez cutting the ball back at the top of the penalty area and releasing a rocket that was tipped over in spectacular fashion by Dautt. Eight minutes later, Cardozo lofted a nice ball into the Blues penalty area that found a wide open Chad Barrett, who should have scored but mishit badly for a harmless roller.
The Galaxy finally tied things up in the 75th minute of play. Dautt came sprinting off his line in an attempt to punch clear a Juninho free-kick swung in from the right, but the Blues netminder failed to make contact on the ball and had to watch in agony as it was headed into the empty net by Omar Gonzalez. The goal clearly served to energize the MLS side, and they were rewarded for their late attacking efforts in the 81st minute.
Another Juninho cross from the left found Gonzalez at the far post and the 22-year-old beautifully headed the ball into the pass of Mike Magee, who finished comfortably from close range for a 2-1 Galaxy lead. The Blues dug an even deeper hole for themselves in the 90th minute of play, Sesay picking up two yellow cards in quick succession, both of them for dissent. Unable to recover from the late blows, the Blues were fortunate not to concede a third on a counter-attack. First Cardozo blasted just over the crossbar, then Magee hit a shot from the edge of the box that whistled just wide of the far post
The Blues hope to build on their impressive performance against the MLS giant when they travel to take on the Charleston Battery in USL PRO play on July 1.